Jobs numbers continue to be at the center of the Wisconsin recall. The new monthly survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Thursday indicate Wisconsin lost 6,200 private-sector jobs in April — but Gov. Scott Walker continues to dispute the reliability of the numbers.
On Wednesday, the state’s Department of Workforce Development released a jobs report based on a different measurement method using quarterly census data and tax reports, which the Walker administration maintains is superior to the usual monthly surveys. The quarterly figures were released more than a month ahead of the normal schedule, before the federal government finishes its own review of them for a national report in late June.
Walker also released a campaign ad Wednesday, touting the quarterly census numbers as “bad news for Tom Barrett,” his opponent in the recall. “The government just released the final job numbers, and as it turns out, Wisconsin actually gained — that’s right, gained more than 20,000 new jobs during my first year in office,” he says in the ad.
The new figures were released a day later, showing job losses, but also a slight drop in the unemployment rate from 6.8 percent to 6.7 percent. In addition, the March estimates were revised upward, from a loss of 4,500 jobs in the preliminary figures to a gain of 2,800 jobs in the revision.
At issue is a matter of two different sets of measurements: the Current Employment Survey, and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, both of which are subject to different processes of revision and review. The Walker administration has released its Quarterly Census data more than a month early, before the final verification of the national report — and, critics note, three weeks before the recall election on June 5.
Economists tend to see value in both systems, with each having their respective advantages. At the same time, experts told TPM, both sets of numbers would still indicate that Wisconsin is not experiencing job growth at any rapid pace.
The Barrett campaign was quick to pounce on the new BLS survey, releasing this statement:
Gov. Walker can trot out all the alternate data he wants, but the numbers are the numbers. By the statistics used by everyone else, including Gov. Walker himself up until just recently, Wisconsin lost 6,200 jobs last month under his failed leadership. Wisconsin has finished dead last in a number of job creating statistics during his tenure as governor. Perhaps if Scott Walker had spent more time focusing on jobs instead of dividing-and-conquering or jetting around the country as a right-wing rock star to the rich, Wisconsin wouldn’t be bleeding jobs.
Meanwhile, the Walker team is pursuing a two-pronged approach. The campaign focused on the bright side of the data in a statement:
Today’s numbers are just another indication that under Governor Walker, Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. While the unemployment rate has been on the steady decline — today dropping to 6.7 percent — since Governor Walker took office, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has presided over a 28 percent increase in unemployment. The policies he has implemented in his city have proven detrimental and Wisconsin cannot afford to let him take the state back to the failed days of record-setting job loss and double-digit tax increases.”
Meanwhile, the Walker administration is officially disputing the newest figures.
“Job creators and job seekers rely on accurate workforce data when they decide to seek employment or grow their businesses in Wisconsin,” Secretary of Workforce Development Reggie Newson, a Walker appointee, wrote in a statement. “When a highly volatile data series diverts from other indicators of job growth — such as fewer Unemployment Insurance claims and increasing state sales and income tax collections — it creates a misleading picture that’s out of line with other indicators that show Wisconsin’s economy is headed in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Walker’s official gubernatorial account tweeted a series of complaints about the numbers:
“The state employment data that triggers each month’s partisan eruption is prone to stunning degrees of inaccuracy.”: ow.ly/aYTGB— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) May 17, 2012
“gov’t statisticians agree that monthly data loses its accuracy whenever it is broken out below the national level.” ow.ly/aYUox— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) May 17, 2012